DC polls: Why the pro-establishment camp is not losing hope

November 21, 2019 18:43
Pro-establishment candidates are seen as the underdogs in the district council election, but it might be a mistake to write off the camp's chances and think that the game is over. Photo: HKEJ

More than five months into extradition bill-triggered crisis, Hong Kong's leadership continues to face heavy fire for perceived misgovernance.

Meanwhile the pro-establishment camp, which has long been helping the government to secure the passage of most of the bills that were tabled to the Legislative Council over the years, is now fighting an uphill battle running against the pan-dems in the upcoming District Council election on Sunday.

There is no doubt that pro-establishment candidates are seen as the underdogs this time, given the widespread anger against Beijing and its supporters here in the wake of the recent events.

However, it might be a mistake to write off the camp's chances and think that the game is over.

A pro-Beijing figure points out that the election prospects of pro-establishment contenders might not be as bad as many people seem to think.

It is because as violence has continued to escalate over the past two weeks, particularly the intense pitched battles fought at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University between the police and student protesters, quite a lot of undecided or formerly politically apathetic voters who are against violence have now been drawn to pro-establishment candidates, the person says.

Another pro-establishment figure who has been taking part in the DC electioneering has pointed out that earlier whenever the candidates of the bloc campaigned at their street booths, they were routinely booed and told off by supporters of the pan-democrats.

But over the past two weeks, things have begun to change, the source said.

That pro-establishment figure went on to say that though their candidates still get booed frequently by pro-democracy voters, an increasing number of middle-aged residents in the neighborhoods have been approaching them in a friendly way and giving them pep talk.

In particular, many of these people have expressed deep concerns about the escalating violence in society.

Based on the preliminary analysis of the pro-establishment camp, these new faces don’t necessarily belong to the support base of the pro-Beijing camp, and some of them haven’t even voted in any previous elections.

These people, who otherwise might have remained as politically apathetic as before, are now getting drawn to the pro-establishment camp probably because they are highly dismayed at the rapidly deteriorating situation in the city, and are terrified amid the violent scenes that are now commonplace across the territory almost every day.

Amid the concerns and fears, the people are showing an inclination to vote for pro-establishment candidates in the hope that they can help restore order to society, according to the person.

Though it is hard to predict the exact numbers of these "first-time voters" who are staunchly against violence, the person believes the DC election is likely to see a record-breaking voter turnout.

As to whether they will fine-tune their campaigning strategies according to the latest developments, that pro-establishment figure conceded that as there are only a couple of days left before the election, not to mention that the stances of the majority of the voters have already become clear-cut, it won't make any difference even if they did adjust their strategies at this point.

Back in 2003, in the aftermath of the then government’s failed attempt to enact a national security law, the pan-democrats swept to a landslide victory in the District Council election in that year with a voter turnout of 44.4 percent.

Thirteen years on, in the 2016 DC race, the voter turnout jumped to 58.28 percent, thanks to the rise of the localist faction in the wake of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, a mass movement that had raised the political awareness of a huge number of young people in Hong Kong.

Based on past experience, a high voter turnout actually tends to work in the pan-dems' favor. Let's see whether this long-standing pattern will be broken on this coming Sunday, as some establishment camp individuals seem to be hoping.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 21

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.